6 JUNE 2018


We won’t get it right every time.  We can only try to do the right thing.  As parents, we try to bring up our children the best way we can.  That usually starts with them following what we do and eventually, hopefully, thinking for themselves and drawing their own conclusions.

Diet is one of the things children tend to pick up from their parents.  Not just from watching them eat and sharing mealtimes but listening to the reasons parents eat what they eat.  In the case of vegetarian parents, it’s often not as simple as just excluding meat from the plate. There’s usually a reason behind it. 

In my case, the primary reason I stopped eating meat many, many years ago is that I didn’t like killing animals.  I’ve killed animals before, I know what it feels like and I choose to never do it again.  That’s something I’ve always talked openly about with my children.  We avoid killing things when we can (there have likely been accidental treading on ants, etc).  The kids are happy with that and we’ve all been living in a little bubble of peace, never having the need to kill anything.

That is, until March this year when, for the first time in 20 years, I deliberately killed an animal. Not just one, actually.  By my estimation it was approximately 100.

A family of paper wasps had built a nest on our fence.  We saw them buzzing around but they didn’t come close to us and it would have been easy to leave them alone and let them live their lives.  However, environmentally speaking, it would have been irresponsible.  Paper wasps, accidentally introduced from Asia and Australia in the 1970s, feed on live prey and are detrimental to New Zealand’s native insects and honeybees.

There’s no doubt New Zealand’s native insects, birds and plant life need to be protected from invasive species.  The country is putting a lot of manpower and money into biocontrol programmes.  I’d been criticised in the past for catching and releasing mice rather than killing them, in line with my no-kill policy.  Now that I have children, I’ve been forced to think about the future, beyond my own lifespan.  I’ve had to confront my own philosophical ideals and check that they’re still inline with what I believe is important.  I’ve discovered it’s possible, and perfectly OK, to change what you think is important.  That’s progress.

Thus, I sat the children down and discussed the situation with the wasps.  We all agreed killing them was the right thing to do.  We went to the supermarket together, purchased a can of Fly Spray (it was hard to choose one – we’d never needed to buy one before), came home and I killed the entire nest of wasps. I took no joy in the process, neither did the kids.  It was simply something that had to be done in order to help something bigger than ourselves.  We did it for our country.

We still don’t kill for food.  I have no intention of changing that and I can’t see any reason I would ever need to.  The kids, so far, think along the same lines.  Who knows what the future holds but for now we’re happy with the decisions we’re making.

We won’t get it right every time.  We can only try to do the right thing.